There has been much debate over the past few years about the sustainability of meat in regards to the health of the planet. An article in the Future section of the BBC website laid out the specifics and the data is pretty fascinating.
- The population’s general health would improve with a meat-free diet. If everyone had adopted the vegetarian lifestyle by 2050, there would be 7 million fewer deaths per year. Make that vegan and the total would increase to eight million.
- The environment would improve. Cows produce a great deal of methane; if their population was drastically reduced, food-related emissions would drop by as much as 60%.
- Taking pasture land currently used by the planet’s millions of cows would free large areas that could instead be used for forests. This would help to alleviate the effects of climate change. These lands could also host different types of plants, which would influence biodiversity.
- The number of coronary heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and some cancers would decrease if meat was eliminated from diets.
In the interest of balance, however, the article also pointed out some aspects of this change that you might not have considered.
- Nomadic groups that raise livestock for food would be forced to settle permanently in some part of their country. This would rob certain tribes of an important cultural tradition.
- Eliminating meat would also mean making a fundamental change in traditions like Thanksgiving and Christmas.
- Between farmers raising livestock and people employed in meat processing and distribution, that is quite a few workers who would need to find new careers. Some could be employed in the agricultural industry, which would experience an enormous upswing in a meat-free world.
- Grazing sheep have helped to shape the land for centuries, so eliminating them could cause considerable geographic changes and negatively effect biodiversity.
- Meat provides more protein per calorie than most components of a vegetarian diet, so it’s entirely possible that the world’s overall nutrition level would suffer.
So, it looks like the answer is not as cut and dried as it might seem.